The Journey Of 4 Dream Bridal Couturiers: Gaurav Gupta
Sculpting The New Age Sari
In 2004, Gaurav Gupta burst on the Indian fashionscape with a bang. You may know him today as the couture designer behind the glamorous saris, gowns and sculptural silhouettes worn to cocktail nights and sangeet ceremonies, but he was originally a different animal.
His label Atpug Varuag (his name spelt in reverse, but abandoned in favour of the more straightforward Gaurav Gupta in 2009) was “very metal-meets-Savile Row in terms of draping and tailoring techniques,” says Varun Rana, who worked with Gupta around that time. “His niche was draping, but not in a soft and sensual sense; it was very architectural.” Gupta introduced the exaggerated shoulder—with boning, sculptural draping, accentuated with shoulder pads or embroideries that would stand out like shards of crystal— and made it his signature. Along with it were other elements that he would show for half a decade: graphics, pinstripes and a colour palette that shouted European menswear — brown, grey, blue, black and sometimes ivory, with navy blue being the brightest tone he would touch.
Gupta has been playing with the sari since his second collection, in which he showed three — a devoré sari, a chikankari sari, and an apron sari — with a pleated apron like a Greek toga. And he continued creating saris every season, though none were shown on the runway. His introduction to the Indian bridal space came through the personal experience of designing the garments for his brother’s wedding in 2008. “I made a peacock lehnga for the wedding, more Indian than the stuff I do right now. It was a fuchsia lehnga with foil-printed flowers, 3D-embroidered peacocks, and drapes over the lehnga as well.” He calls it theatrical, but it was the breakthrough point from which he started creating a range of designs to be worn at weddings.
Two years later, he offered what would become his signature to the Indian bridal space — the sari gown. They first appeared at the Delhi Couture Week 2010 — one in black and one in lace. The skirt and the blouse zipped up separately, but they were attached to each other, and looked like one piece. The pallu was engineered to cascade down the back like a waterfall, emerging from a chunk of embroidery that fell over the left shoulder. “It was such a great hit, both with the market and the press, because it was something so new,” remembers Gupta. “Now, every designer in the country has a sari gown. That is a cultural shift.”
Over the next eight years, he would redesign the sari gown, transforming it into a single garment instead of multiple pieces, and incorporating the technically challenging slant zipper closure. He would introduce colour into the mix (navy morphed into teal, a light delicate pink would take the place of rani pink), and tone down the aggressive shoulders to wrap more sensually around the body.
He also discovered that the key to being Gaurav Gupta was to create unusual, fearless clothes, whether it’s making necklines really sexy, or cut-outs that leave the hips naked (like in his Lightfall collection at the Delhi Couture Week 2013). “It’s a very weird dialogue between the client and me,” he says. “When I make something that doesn’t exist, they react with an ‘I like that’. When I try to make commercial things, like a salwar kameez or a lehnga, it fails. Nobody buys it, even if the embroideries are very unique. They just want people to know it’s a Gaurav Gupta design, so that it makes a statement — subtle or not, it has to be a statement.”
“He’s doing things that turn heads, and in an Indian wedding that is what a bride is supposed to do,” says Rana. “A bride who doesn’t want to wear a lehnga for a cocktail, no matter how modern it may be, will choose a Gaurav Gupta outfit because she knows that the moment she emerges from the doorway, or staircase, or whatever, people are going to gasp and say ‘Wow’.”
Gupta says that one of the signatures of his brand is the number eight that represents infinity and influences the rhythm of his creations. “They don’t have a beginning and an endpoint. They are not pattern-made, they are sculptures.”
Read Part 3 (Sanjay Garg) here
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